Nature and Common Effects of Sexual Harassment in the WorkplaceSexual harassment is a serious form of gender discrimination and abuse of power. Gender-sensitive workplace culture and policies can help deter harassment.
According to Salidumay, a Philippine-based non-profit organization that offers legal services, sexual harassment has two main elements:
- The conduct committed must be of a sexual nature. Harassment was committed in reference to the sex of the person being harassed or using the biological difference between man and woman or one's gender identity and sexual orientation as a cause for humiliation or degradation.
- The sexual conduct or attention is unwanted. The victim or survivor of harassment did not invite the attention nor did she or he want the act to continue. The harassment then was imposed and not sought for.
Furthermore, as EqualRights.org explains, such acts come in various forms:
- Verbal or written: e.g., unpleasant sexual or green jokes; comments about clothing, personal behavior, or a person's body; requesting sexual favors or insistently asking a person out regardless of repeated rejections; sexual innuendos; spreading rumors about a person's sexual or personal life; threatening a person
- Physical: e.g., assault; impeding or blocking movement; inappropriate touching, kissing, hugging, patting, stroking of a person or a person's clothing
- Nonverbal: e.g., derogatory gestures, staring at a person's body or making facial expressions of a sexual nature; stalking
- Visual: e.g., lewd posters, drawings, pictures, screen savers or emails
Ill effects of sexual harassmentSexual harassment can be a severe, single incident like rape or attempted rape. It can also be pervasive or composed of a series of incidents. Either way, it often adversely affects a person's work performance or working conditions.
Its effects are noted to vary depending on the individual, as well as on the severity and duration of the harassment. Victims also suffer from psychological and health problems, ranging from depression, eating disorders, and low self-esteem to alcoholism, high blood pressure, and being suicidal. It can also result in increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, sudden resignation, and extreme work stress, among others.
Resolving sexual harassmentEnsuring a sexual-harassment free workplace contributes to employee morale and productivity, in addition to organizational success and industrial peace. The International Labor Organization (ILO)'s Decent Work Agenda describes how issues of gender discrimination like sexual harassment impede genuine social protection which is essential to national development.
However, not all countries have criminalized sexual harassment or have implemented a law against it. Thus, it is necessary for the workplace to adopt gender-sensitive policies to safeguard each worker's dignity and human rights. These may include: (1) conducting regular gender sensitivity training sessions, and (2) having a committee to receive complaints and investigate cases of sexual harassment.
For individuals who have experienced or are suffering from sexual harassment, overcoming your pain and trauma goes beyond policies. It is advised that you document each incident in a diary and confide in a trusted friend. Surround yourself with people who genuinely love and care for you, and know your worth as a human being. They can suggest a legal recourse, but it is still up to you as to what you want to do. You can either resign or stay in the company.
In case you decide to file a case against the harasser(s), be resolute enough to endure the trying legal or investigation process, especially if your harasser and her/his allies accuse you of fabricating the story. Situations like this where the victim is blamed happen even in rape cases. Nonetheless, so long as your conscience is clear, stand your ground. And if you're a theist, believe that God will stand by your side no matter what happens. It does take courage and faith in the judicial system or in people's sense of justice to defend yourself and to protect others from going through the same ordeal.
Written by Leann Zarah (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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